Times of services:
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
Freedom from tyranny; the celebration of liberty and proclamations of independence: For Americans, July 4th commemorates all of these.
Liberation from oppression continues to be the goal of many on this globe. Millions living under cruel, harsh and unthinkable conditions yearn to be free.
Yet, there is an even more stifling despot on this planet than the cruelest dictator. Sin is personified in the Bible as an evil master who rules over his slaves offering only the prospect of eternal death: “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” and the wages of sin is death” (Jno. 8:34; Rom. 6:23).
Liberty from the slavery of sin is obtained when a sinner is baptized into Christ. The sinner dies to sin. The body of sin is “done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Rom. 6:6-7, 4). Jesus correctly affirmed, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jno. 8:36).
You are lost, a slave of sin, until you believe Jesus is the son of God and confess your faith before others (Jno. 8:24; Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10); until you repent of your sins (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30) and then are baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16; 2:37-38). When you obey the gospel of Christ God frees you from your sin “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
Freedom from sin does not mean freedom to sin. Being a Christian does not mean independence from the personal responsibility of obeying the will of God (Jas. 4:17). Becoming a Christian means we voluntarily choose to now be slaves of God: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:16-18). We are all slaves of something. To whom are you presenting yourself: sin or righteousness? Who is your Master?
Christ has liberated Christians from the bondage of sin and eternal death. We choose to serve Christ by obedient lives of faith. We are not free to sin with exemption from punishment (Rom. 2:3). The Christian’s attitude toward sin does not say, “God loves me too much to punish me when I sin,” thus deceiving oneself to continue to practice sin (Rom. 6:1-2, 15, 23). Christians say, “I love God so much that I will not continue to live in sin; now I will serve God in righteousness.”
Do you remember your independence day from sin (the day you were baptized into Christ, Rom. 6:3-4)? What about today: Is your life reflecting your freedom from sin?
Joe R. Price
Knowing how to “give a defense to everyone who asks you” is not inbred (1 Pet. 3:15). “Defense” is translated from apologia which is a “verbal defense” (Thayer, 65). Such a defense of one’s hope is to be “a reasoned statement or argument” (Online Bible Greek Lexicon). It requires deliberate faith and diligent study to learn the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). God expects us to learn God’s word so we can be equipped to answer those who challenge our hope in Christ. So, we need to prepare ourselves to give the answers God has revealed in the Scriptures in order to effectively persuade others to also have hope in Christ (Eph. 6:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). To accomplish this, Christ must rule in our hearts so that our “defense” if not of self, but of the Savior (1 Pet. 3:15).
We will face a vast array of circumstances when we teach the gospel to others. God’s word does not change due to cultural circumstances or societal situations – everyone needs to hear the same truth. Nevertheless, the events of each person’s life bring uniqueness to every encounter. For instance, Peter’s “defense” to the Jews on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is very different to the “defense” Paul gave the Athenians in Acts 17. The same need existed and the same gospel was preached, but different issues were addressed. Both addressed the specific need of their audiences. If we think there is a “one size fits all” approach to giving a defense of our hope, perhaps we should on the guidance such examples give us.
Please notice: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). Each opportunity to “give a defense” of the gospel requires that we understand the need of the moment. If we are talking with an atheist, the defense of our hope will be dramatically different from what we say to a fellow-Christian who needs to be exhorted to greater faithfulness (Heb. 10:23-24). The Lord expects us to consider the need of the hearer when we give an answer for our hope. This is some of the “grace” and “salt” with which we are to flavor our speech (Col. 4:6; Eph. 4:29).
So then, the way we “give a defense” depends in part on the person to whom the defense is being given. For example: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:4-5). This is not a contradiction. Rather, we are called on to make a judgment upon which to proceed in teaching and answering a person. Such assessments require wisdom, a wisdom that often comes from experience. Paul gives us an example of this when he answered opponents of the truth (2 Cor. 11:1, 16-21).
What defense do we give when others ask about our hope? Do we appeal to personal emotions to support our belief and practice? If so, we are not defending the gospel; we are defending ourselves (Jer. 10:23). Do we appeal to our tradition? If so, then we are not directing people to the apostolic tradition (2 Ths. 2:15). Do we defend a personal conviction without giving any Biblical support? If so, have we followed the instruction of 1 Peter 3:15?
The defense of our hope is only valid if it comes from a “thus saith the Lord” (1 Pet. 4:11; Phil. 1:7, 17-18). It must be a defense borne from inspired Scriptures, for they alone establish truth and are the sure foundation for saving faith (Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The answers we give are intended to save the lost with the gospel of Jesus (Acts 8:31-35). The defense we make includes contending for the faith against error and sin (Jude 3). The defense we make warns souls of the dangers of sin and false teaching (Ezek. 3:17; Acts 20:20, 29-31). “Dumb (mute) dogs” that refuse to warn souls of the dangers of sin are irresponsible and harm the cause of Christ (Isa. 56:10-11).
The defense you make to others will have an effect on their salvation and yours (1 Pet. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:16). So, give attention to the answers you give and how you give them. Using wisdom, speak graciously and meet the need of the moment with Scripture. By making a defense of the gospel we seek the spiritual welfare of others. By thus speaking the truth in love, we “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15; Eph. 4:15).
• God made you the spiritual leader of your home: Your
wife needs you to be the leader.
• Your wife needs your help in raising the children and
taking care of the home.
• Your wife needs you to treat her like a queen.
• Your wife needs you to communicate with her.
• Your wife needs you to be an encourager by giving her
appreciation, affirmation and admiration.
Adapted and edited from
Floods, Wars and Rumors of War
Joe R. Price
Portions of the northeastern United States were inundated with flood waters this week. The state of New York experienced some of its worst flooding in over a decade. Rivers exceeded their banks throughout the region, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents from Virginia northward. At least ten people lost their lives in the flooding and its effects.
Some say the Genesis flood was just local. Yet, the Bible describes that flood as worldwide, covering the “face of all the earth” and “all the high hills under the whole heaven” (Gen. 7:3, 4, 19). Water prevailed on the earth (Gen. 7:24). God used water as His instrument of judgment against the wickedness and corruption of humanity (Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13, 17). God said, “everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen. 6:17). The Genesis flood was a worldwide judgment, not a local deluge.
Also this week, the Israeli military moved into the Gaza Strip with tanks and aircraft in response to the capture by Palestinian militants of an Israeli soldier. Within the past couple of weeks there have been North Korean threats of a ballistic missile test; a joint missile defense exercise in the Pacific by the U.S. and Japan. Plus, the war on terror continues in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Jesus said that before the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple disciples would hear of “wars and rumors of war” (Matt. 24:1-6). Wars continued then and continue today.
Some are always caught unprepared by the unexpected nature of divine judgment (read Matt. 24:38-39). We must be prepared for the Lord’s coming: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:42, 44). Are you ready?
Created by Chuck Sibbing -
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA